I think of photography as a form of archeology.
Only the time perception is reversed, as archeology discovers what has survived the past, while photography creates an archive that intends to survive the future. This is an abstract procedure that resembles the working process of archaeologists. The effort to dig deeper and separate the dust from the findings provides a strong metaphor but there’s also the skill to estimate what needs to be saved, what needs to be stored, what needs to be photographed.
One has to think of the future; how things are going to look like when everything is going to be in the past. After all, everything tends to acquire a whole new identity when the variable of time gets involved. Things, before they change into something else, more or less different, they go through a long process of transformation. This is the normal state in which we meet them within our lifetime. These changes are the equitation factor I’m more interested in.
There is always something more, something beyond the actual photographic quality of an image.
There is also interpretation.
Our perception of the past is partially based on strong hypotheses. When there are not enough sources of information, an archeologist has to interpret the findings and achieve a convincing hypothesis. Today such hypotheses are strictly controlled by the academic world and mistakes can be avoided. But till a couple of centuries ago, when archeology wasn’t an established science, interpreting the facts was a quite subjective procedure and hypotheses were influenced by imagination. In Greece one can still visit the King Minos Palace or the Tomb of Agamemnon, even though there is no historical documentation they ever really existed.
Imagination is always a part of interpretation.
I try to include such an imaginary interpretation in my own work. Photography has the ability to offer documents; nevertheless it also has a certain transforming force. I try to approach this transformation as an actual part of the documentation. This is the vital part of the “hypothesis” my work suggests.
It’s like trying to blend history and mythology into something that will look like a convincing fact in the future.
Photography can be an ideal medium for this. It’s both so strictly rational and so poetic.
It’s like a somnambulist solving math problems.
Photography is the description of a journey.
Each image on its own is a testimony; a document that survives time, transferring a memory, an interpretation of a moment that otherwise would remain suspended between oblivion and myth, between a thought and a clarification.
The character that runs through a series of photographs though, is different than the one that refers to a single image. It is because a series of images remains bound to the eye that gathered them, the way it interpreted, not a world limited within the four sides of a photographic frame, but a world released from limits and dimensions, freely suspended and freely interpreted.
The photographic frame itself is only the result of this primary experience, an experience of which, we as viewers, we will be always unaware and we will be only suggesting. A series of photographs creates a narration, there is no doubt about that; what remains is only to tell the kind the peculiarities of this narration. It is because, even more than a narration, a series of photographs is a procession. A sequence of symbols and descriptions that seem to march, just like banners in a procession that crosses a main street of a town. Images next to other images, stored memory next to the living present, fleeting forms that our eye captures for just a moment but they transfer an impression that it gets recorded inside us for a little longer.
And it is like we are trying to find the content of this narration the same way we would try to understand the character and the purpose of a procession interpreting only the symbols and their sequence inside of it. Sometimes it may be clear, because of a pre-existing experience and our familiarity with its content, while some other times it may get clearer thanks to an explaining that someone could offer concerning what’s happening. But even like this, something obscured will always remain behind the symbols, something undefined. It is because every narration that is based on symbols and images will always incorporate a displacement of reason in favor of emotion.
Photography saves something that is de facto ephemeral. It describes a small victory of memory over time but in the same time it recites a defeat. It is the ephemeral of our own existence, the one that collected and restored these images. Every image, individually, it records a moment that can be interpreted within the four sides of the photographic frame. A set of images though it maintains something from this primary experience of a world without vertical or horizontal borders, in other words, of the world they came from. The only link between them is the glance that bought them together.
This is the actual ephemeral that is described through a series of images. The coincidence, the chance, the need that which created and gathered them. At the end, what is rescued is only an interpretation of a moment but what is lost is the actual reason behind its creation. Photography doesn’t save a moment that it obviously had to be saved; it doesn’t try to interpret a fleeting situation that it was necessary to be interpreted. A series of photographs isn’t trying to put into order a sequence of images that ought to record the memory; it isn’t trying to organize a set of images that ought to exist. Photography is the description of a journey. The journey itself is what gets lost, what doesn’t make it to survive time, leaving something that seems like traces suspended in a space without ground.
Photograph gives away its maker. The man holding the camera behind the captured moment that we see as viewers on a photograph, he is there, we feel his presence realizing that despite the familiarity that photography’s realism is offering and it can connect us straight to the subject, we do know that someone has interfered. The one who captured the moment. But photography also betrays its maker. It is again photography’s character that it eventually, over time; it tends to repel more and more the realization that images are the result of thought and expression of the one who created them.
The natural tendency all images have is to become anonymous. Simple fragments of a collective memory. Their placing into a sequence and the creation of a narration through a set of images it brings once more into foreground their maker, revealing, even in a discreet way, that life, just like memory itself is the result of a chain of obsessions, thoughts and feelings.
What remains is interpretation.
As ephemeral as the past that tries to interpret.
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